Business group calls China travel ban a 'savage blow to tourism'

Tourists take photos in Sydney. Source: AAP

A business group has called for a partial lifting of the travel ban from mainland China to Australia saying it has dealt a blow to tourism.

A leading business group has called for a partial lifting of the travel ban to prevent the spread of the coronavirus from mainland China, saying it is a "savage blow to tourism".

The federal government extended the two-week travel ban for another seven days this week on official medical advice.

Passengers from a China Southern Airlines flight touch down in Australia last month.
Passengers from a China Southern Airlines flight touch down in Australia last month.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said keeping Australians safe from the virus is "absolutely paramount", but said it is a "savage blow" to Australian tourism.

"The ban on passenger air travel also impacts on a range of other industries that depend on frequent air movements to shift goods, including perishable products," the chamber's John Hart said in a statement.

"Tourism and trade would greatly benefit from even a partial lifting of the ban from provinces in China that present a much lower risk to Australians."

He said Beijing and Shanghai have tightly controlled the virus and account for around 33 per cent of airline movements.

People wear masks in Beijing on Thursday.
People wear masks in Beijing on Thursday.

The city of Beijing has imposed a 14-day self-quarantine on people returning to the city from holidays and threatened to punish those who failed to comply.

Meanwhile, the Maritime Union of Australia is concerned its members are being put at risk by the arrival of container vessels from mainland China, which it says in some cases are docking in breach of the travel ban.

"These vessels are being allowed to dock less than a fortnight after leaving Chinese ports," MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said in a statement referring to incidents in Melbourne and Darwin.

Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has raised this issue with the government and the chief medical officer, and has been assured they are aware of the situation.

"We need to be vigilant and make sure the health of Australians is the number one priority," Mr Albanese told reporters in Perth.

No quarantined Australians at Christmas Island and Darwin have tested positive for the virus, with the first group of evacuees due to return home on Monday.

The Australian Border Force says it is making arrangements to transfer those quarantined on Christmas Island once they have been medically cleared.

"The government will continue to provide routine updates when appropriate," an ABF spokesman told AAP.

Of the 15 coronavirus cases in Australia, six have been cleared and the remaining nine are all stable.

In China, the total number infected by the virus rose to more than 66,000 on Saturday, with the number of deaths passing 1,500.

A total of 1,700 Chinese health workers have been infected, with six deaths.

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